This hefty penalty was imposed due to a significant leak of waste materials into the Philippovka, Tikhaya, and Ulba rivers within the Eastern Kazakhstan region. This unfortunate event has drawn the attention of environmental regulators and raised serious concerns about the ecological repercussions.
The Cause of the Leak
The incident was triggered by a rupture in a pulp pipeline at the tailings facility of the Riddar Ore Enrichment Plant, which is operated by Kazzinc. The rupture led to the release of 1350 cubic meters of slurry, a byproduct of ore processing, onto the surrounding terrain. The natural topography allowed these liquid waste materials to flow into the Philippovka River, eventually merging with the Tikhaya River and, subsequently, the Ulba River. This chain reaction significantly deteriorated the quality of surface water and inflicted harm upon the local natural habitat.
Environmental Violations Detected
Environmental specialists who conducted investigations in the aftermath of the waste leakage discovered alarming increases in the concentrations of various substances:
- Nitrate levels surged by a staggering 140 times.
- Suspended solids showed a fiftyfold increase.
- Manganese levels skyrocketed by a factor of five.
These findings underscore the gravity of the environmental impact caused by Kazzinc’s negligence in preventing and addressing the waste leakage.
Efforts to rectify the environmental damage were swift and comprehensive. The spilt slurry was promptly collected from the affected riverbanks and terrain. Following this, a thorough cleansing of the affected areas was carried out, including the restoration of the fertile soil layer. As a further step towards environmental restitution, perennial grasses were sown to promote ecological recovery.
The collected liquid pulp was temporarily stored in an emergency pond at Pumping Station No. 5. It will later be transported to the Talovskoye tailings storage facility for safe and regulated disposal. Importantly, bio testing of the water did not reveal any toxic impact on local biota, providing some assurance regarding the immediate environmental consequences.
Compensation and Restoration
Kazzinc has committed to compensating for the environmental damage it caused. By the end of October, the company aims to restore the Shulbinskoye Reservoir by introducing 1400 juvenile fish of the carp family. Additionally, the company is obligated to pay administrative fines totalling 49.6 million Kazakhstani Tenge.
In response to the incident, the Riddar Police Department has submitted a formal complaint. If authorities decline to initiate criminal proceedings against Kazzinc, the company could face an additional fine of 6.9 million Kazakhstani Tenge for soil contamination.
It’s worth noting that this is not the first time Kazzinc has been embroiled in environmental controversy. In July of this year, the Philippovka River in Eastern Kazakhstan turned a milky white, a phenomenon attributed to a rupture in a pipeline used for transporting ore or waste from the mining industry (known as a pulp pipeline) at the Riddar Ore Enrichment Complex operated by Kazzinc. This spill of pulp materials also entered the river, causing further environmental distress.
In a separate incident in 2021, “Kursiv” reported that Kazzinc had discharged polluted water into the Bukhtarma River, resulting in environmental damages exceeding 8 million Kazakhstani Tenge.
Kazzinc stands as one of Kazakhstan’s major non-ferrous metallurgical enterprises, encompassing the entire production cycle of zinc, lead, copper, gold, and silver ingots. This extensive process begins with ore extraction and culminates in the production of refined metals.
The company comprises five industrial plants, with its headquarters situated in Ust-Kamenogorsk. The primary shareholder of Kazzinc is the Anglo-Swiss trader Glencore, while the remaining shares are held by the national company “Tau-Ken Samruk.”
In conclusion, the recent environmental incident involving Kazzinc underscores the importance of robust environmental regulations and oversight in Kazakhstan’s industrial sector. It serves as a reminder of the significant ecological consequences that can result from inadequate waste management practices, emphasizing the need for continuous monitoring and remediation efforts to protect the country’s natural resources and biodiversity.